Education has been a top priority in Namibia for some time now. The government has been directing a lot of resources and expertise into establishing effective systems and policies that will have a positive impact in classrooms and on students. Information and communication technologies have been a very important part of this process, and classrooms are benefiting from better technology and a more learner-centric education system. The eLearning Africa News Service spoke with Dr Maggy Beukes-Amiss, university lecturer and chairperson of the eLearning Africa 2013 Local Organising Committee, G. N. Uunona, Kristy Kambonde and Wilhelm P. Hango, teachers from Namibia, and Reinhard Mahalie, a Namibian student, about the changes ICT is having on education there, and what it means for them and their role in the classroom.
By Claire Adamson
The Vision 2030 initiative was established in 2004 as a policy framework for overall development in Namibia. Among its primary goals is the creation of a knowledge-based society. The document calls for "a strong general education base in Science and Technology, flexible delivery of a flexible curriculum, combined with new teaching methodologies".
The Namibian government has dedicated a lot of expenditure towards education since the country's independence in 1990 – it currently occupies around 20% of the national budget. The Education and Training Sector Improvement Program (ETSIP) was introduced to aid progress toward the goals outlined in Vision 2030. The programme aims to hasten development toward the MDGs, while improving the current education system and increasing the supply of highly skilled individuals in Namibia. ICT is an integral part of the ETSIP manifesto.
Teachers have benefited greatly from these developments, and ICT has become an indispensable aid in the classroom. The Internet, digital projectors and laptops are all contributing to the teaching environment in Namibian classrooms, with teachers finding the move toward a more learner-centric education style as one of the most important outcomes of the ICT provided. Mr G. N. Uunona put it this way: "It optimises teaching and learning, it can be a catalyst for literacy [and] it can enhance the knowledge-based economy."
Teachers have also been incredibly enthusiastic about the freedom that technology has given them and their students – namely the access to resources that lets them focus more on teaching and less on planning. Wilhelm P. Hango said: "It is like my learners do not only have me as their teacher but thousands of teachers on the World Wide Web." Reinhard Mahalie shared this opinion – giving us a student's perspective. "ICT at tertiary institutions is quite advanced… information is more accessible," he said; "individual perspectives are to be broadened." By exposing students to videos, texts, exercises and other learning materials available online, teachers can become part of a world of information and connect with other educators across the globe.
This collaborative blended learning style saves teachers a lot of planning time, and allows them to share their own knowledge and methodologies, as well as taking advantage of others'. The time and energy that is saved can be redirected toward students, letting teachers engage in their classrooms more thoroughly.
The teachers interviewed were generally optimistic about the future of ICT in classrooms, and their assessment of what the government is doing now was largely positive. The most important step forward, according to them, is the education of teachers themselves: namely the promotion of ICT as a teaching method and the need to get more teachers on board. "The usage of mobile phones by almost every Namibian should be positively motivated to research education matters. Proper training should be given on how to use technological devices such digital cameras [and] laptops," said Kristy Kambonde. Motivation is indeed a key goal – teachers need to see how ICT will make their lives easier before they let go of the methods they already employ.
eLearning Africa is seen by interviewees as being an incredibly valuable instrument facilitating this change. By providing a link between educators, the government and the private sector, it allows teachers to engage with new and existing technologies on a deeper level and be a part of the discussion around usage and implementation. The conference will also increase visibility and awareness surrounding ICT in classrooms, not just in Namibia but in Africa as a whole.
Dr Maggy Beukes-Amiss, head of department and senior lecturer at Namibia University's Department of Information and Communication Studies, believes that Namibia is on the right track when it comes to ICT in classrooms, but that there is still progress to be made: "It is my personal wish that the emphasis of using ICTs will shift from the presence of such tools to the pedagogical value of using ICTs in our classrooms. To ensure we distinctively use ICTs where it makes a real difference and not just for the sake of using it."
The way ICT has changed the classroom experience in Namibia is an interesting start point from which to explore this concept in other parts of Africa. While teachers in Namibia may benefit from a government that is committed to providing and nurturing the development of technology in schools, other countries are still falling behind in this regard. Education in Namibia is about to be showcased at the eLearning Africa conference, serving as an example to governments looking to improve their own policies. Namibians feature prominently on the programme: Dr Maggy Beukes-Amiss will chair one of the plenary debates, while Kristy Kambonde is facilitating one of our pre-conference workshops.
To register for the conference, either online or by post, please click here.